The Epic Games Store is enticing some smaller developers away from Steam, but Valve has recently made changes secretly which might prevent others from abandoning them and could offer more indie games to gamers who actually wish to buy them.
Although gamers maybe already know how to search for big releases such as Gears 5, Valve says that those big games have knocked smaller ones from being recommended. So now it’s planning to present more small games and less popular ones in its recommendation feeds.
Bugs were partly responsible for that problem, says Valve:
Previously, when customers would look for games by browsing the recommendation feed at the bottom of the homepage or the “More Like This” sections, they weren’t seeing as many different games as we would’ve liked. Furthermore, we were receiving lots of feedback that
“Recommended for You,” felt too biased towards only the most popular games and didn’t feel very personalized. We wanted to determine how to respond to this feedback, so we went in search of bugs and decided to run an experiment.
We found some bugs, such as the “Similar by Tags” section of the Recommendation Feed, which had a bug that top-rated games (a category that doesn’t change very often) were driving too much of what players saw. We changed that. We also found that in some places our timescale used to calculate popularity was too narrow, resulting in unpredictable visibility for some games. So we expanded the time period we use in those calculations.
It appears that these aren’t simply self-serving changes to keep developers interested. Valve tested the new changes with 5 percent of its users and found that gamers were actually influenced by the new recommendations that they got. Apparently, users were more likely to try them out and Valve says more games were purchased and wishlisted. The outcome of the test convinced Valve to make the changes for everyone.
If the recommendation changes work as planned, gamers might be glad to discover games that they didn’t know previously, apart from what they might already see endorsed on the Steam store homepage. The recommendations could be great for smaller developers as well, if they increase game sales, like it was found in the experiment. If so, developers might not think about jumping to another platform.
However, Steam’s disorder is the only reason behind those developers signing up with popular new platforms such as the Epic Games Store and Apple Arcade. They’ve also been offering developers a mix of money and talent, in exchange for exclusives.
By the way, this isn’t Valve’s only new push toward better discoverability: it has been busy with experimental tools such as the machine learning-powered Interactive Recommender and a tool called Deep Dive which allows you to indulge in game info until you find the right one.